There was no room left for doubt in Eitan’s mind. They were inside the house. Rinn, the dog, had yelped once, but then was silent. He’d kill them for that. He’d make them suffer. But even in the state of utter fear that Tall Man felt overtaking him, he knew that he would not stand any chance if he did not leave immediately.
He was too high up to just jump from the window. He could break a leg, and that would doom him for sure. There was a gun on the top shelf of the closet, but he’d only fired the thing a few times at paper targets.
There was an audible footstep downstairs. They were moving.
He tip-toed to the closet and pulled the pistol from its shelf. He nearly forgot to take the box of ammunition with it, but the thought occurred to him before he went to leave the room.
To get out, he would have to descend the stairs, and he was almost certain that they were already walking up them. So Eitan took a breath and stepped into the upstairs corridor, slipping into the bathroom.
He could not hear any reaction to his movement. They had not heard him. Thankfully, the house was built of solid concrete, and the floors were just carpet over the solid surface. Hardwood floors might have creaked.
He had anticipated this move. Maryam and Karis had already left town. He only hoped that the people who had come to kill him would dismiss his hosts as unrelated to the conflict – not worth the effort.
Why the hell am I worth the effort? Tall Man thought to himself. Well, maybe he hadn’t been, but as soon as Mr. Flow brought him into the loop, he’d become a target. The old djinni was supposed to be on his way to pick him up, but Tall Man could not be sure he would make it – or even that Flow was still alive.
They would be checking all the doors. He would not simply be able to wait them out. This thought occurred to him too late from him to see if jumping from the bathroom’s window would be safe enough.
The solidity of the floor now became a liability, as he had a hard time hearing the killers as they made their way up the corridor. Still, they were close, and the moment came.
He slammed the door outward, knocking a woman hard into the opposite wall. She fell to the ground, dropping her gun. Tall Man gave her a solid kick to the stomach and then came around.
He had barely gotten clear of the door when a short man punched him hard in the stomach. The man punched him again, and then a third time, and Tall Man stumbled back.
The gun fired, and the man who had punched him dropped to the ground. It took a moment for Tall Man to realize he had even aimed and pulled the trigger.
He ran down the stairs, stumbling, and he missed the last two stairs, falling to his knees painfully when he reached the brown tile floor. He quickly got himself up and ran past poor Rinn’s body.
Someone fired a gun and the little shrine-statue in the front hall exploded in a hail of splinters. Tall Man kept his head down and ran for the front door. It was already open. He came out into the chilly night.
There were three men there, all in dark masks, all with guns. They looked about as surprised to see him as he was to see them. The surprise gave way, and Tall Man ducked to the side as they opened up.
But the gunfire was very short-lived. Tall Man heard the squeal of tires and a loud thump, followed by a pair of short cracks.
“Get in!” Tall Man heard a familiar voice say. He blinked hard and then ran toward the car.
Mr. Flow was at the wheel, and another man who was called Iron String leaned out of the back seat with a shotgun. The assailants were all down in the street.
Tall Man rushed around the back of the car and climbed in the passenger seat.
“He’s in! He’s in! Go!” yelled Iron String.
Mr. Flow slammed his foot down and the car lurched forward.
“Tom, get back in the car before…” but Mr. Flow was cut off by the sound of shattering glass. The rear windshield exploded and Tall Man’s side mirror was suddenly obscured by blood. The car rocked as Iron String’s body fell out the window.
“Fuck!” cried Mr. Flow.
A block away, things were suddenly quiet and almost calm. Tall Man could hear the whistling of the wind through the broken windshield.
He looked over at Mr. Flow. There were two circles of light in his arm and shoulder that were glowing orange, like a burning log. “Flow, you were hit.”
“I know.” Mr. Flow bit back a wince of pain. “Eitan, you’re not looking so good yourself.”
It was true; he was covered with blood. When Iron String got hit, it had sprayed all over him. Tall Man sighed, feeling extremely tired. His stomach still hurt considerably from being punched. He held his hand over it.
And when he pulled his hand away, it was covered with hot, wet blood.
“Oh shit,” said Eitan, his head spinning. “I think I got stabbed.”
(Copyright Daniel Szolovits 2013)